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Hirono: “High quality preschool makes the biggest difference in educational outcomes, so this bill focuses on quality”

Washington, D.C. -- Senator Mazie K. Hirono today introduced the Providing Resources Early for Kids Act (PRE-K Act), legislation that strengthens early childhood education. The PRE-K Act creates a new federal-state partnership that incentivizes states to both improve the quality of state preschool programs and expand to serve more children in need.

“Research shows that quality early education is foundational for success in school and in life. The PRE-K Act will help more kids enter school ready to succeed. It creates a new federal-state partnership to provide better preschool opportunities for our country’s children. High quality preschool makes the biggest difference in educational outcomes, so this bill focuses on quality. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to move this forward,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono.

The PRE-K Act creates a new federal-state partnership to improve state preschool programs and expand to serve more children in need. States that already have a high-quality preschool program could get grants to improve quality and expand to serve more children. Other states – like Hawaii – could apply for startup funds if they submit a plan to establish a high-quality preschool program within two years. PRE-K Act funds could help states hire and train early educators; expand preschool days and hours; or provide comprehensive services such as health screenings and meals.

The PRE-K Act’s introduction comes shortly after President Obama’s call for increased federal investments in state preschool programs during his 2013 State of the Union address. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised Senator Hirono’s work on this issue:

“I commend Senator Hirono and her colleagues for their attention to early learning and for supporting education beginning in the earliest years -- to set our children on a path to success in school and in life,” Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education.

Good Beginnings Alliance – a Hawaii early education advocacy partnership of businesses, families, non-profits and community groups – praised Senator Hirono’s continued advocacy on behalf of early education.

“We’d like to thank Senator Hirono for her continued leadership in the arena of early childhood education. Her introduction of the PRE-K Act shows once again her understanding that investment in our children early in their lives will pay off with invaluable dividends down the road. Along with President Obama’s vision of investing in preschool for all 4-year-olds in the nation, the PRE-K Act provides an additional incentive for Hawaii to create a state-supported early learning system to take advantage of potential federal support in early education,” said Deborah Zysman, Executive Director of Good Beginnings Alliance.

Senator Hirono has received national recognition for her consistent advocacy in support of early childhood education, including the “National Pre-K Champion Award” for ushering the PRE-K Act through the House Committee on Education and Labor in 2008. Her accomplishments include launching Hawaii’s Pre-Plus preschool construction program as Lieutenant Governor and helping President Obama establish the Early Learning Challenge as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The PRE-K Act was introduced with the following original Senate cosponsors: Senators Mark Begich (AK), Ben Cardin (MD), Richard Durbin (IL), Al Franken (MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Tim Johnson (SD), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Patty Murray (WA), Brian Schatz (HI), Chuck Schumer (NY), and Ron Wyden (OR).

Companion legislation in the House is being introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4), the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.

“In today’s competitive global economy and with higher education costing more than ever, it’s never too early to prepare our kids for excellence. The PRE-K Act will help states make this critical investment in our nation’s future. Early learners make the best earners, and I’m proud to sponsor this legislation with Senator Hirono,” said Congresswoman McCarthy.

The PRE-K Act of 2013 has been endorsed by the following national and Hawaii organizations:

•          American Association of School Administrators (AASA)

•          American Association of University Women (AAUW)

•          American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

•          Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

•          Council of Administrators of Special Education - CEC

•          First Focus Campaign for Children

•          Good Beginnings Alliance

•          Hawaii Business Roundtable

•          HighScope Educational Research Foundation

•          Learning Disabilities Association of America

•          National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

•          National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)

•          National Education Association (NEA)

•          National Women’s Law Center (NWLC)

•          Parents As Teachers

•          School Social Work Association of America (SSWA)